May 18, 2010

Anne Midgette Reviews Reilly and Friends

Review: J. Reilly Lewis 25th anniversary event at Washington National Cathedral

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On Sunday, a broad swath of Washington's music community turned out to celebrate one of its pillars, the choral conductor and organist J. Reilly Lewis, who celebrated his 25th anniversary as the head of the Cathedral Choral Society with a typically informal, personal event called "Reilly and Friends."
In the classical world, 25 years is a drop in the bucket -- Norman Scribner, founder of the Choral Arts Society, is currently wrapping up his 45th anniversary season with that group, and Lewis himself has served for more than 30 years as head of the Washington Bach Consort. But the anniversary was an excuse for many to come cheer the popular Lewis -- including Scribner himself, who conducted one of the pieces. The concert at Washington National Cathedral included everyone from the Washington Ballet (Andile Ndlovu danced an athletic if stylistically incongruous interpretation of the aria from the "Goldberg" Variations) to the Washington Symphonic Brass to the kids of the St. Albans-National Cathedral Schools Chorale, the girls in purple patterned skirts that made a funky contrast to the demure purple ruffle-necked robes sported by the smallest members of the cathedral's Choir of Men and Boys.
Lewis's musical autobiography, as presented here, was intimately bound up with the cathedral, whose difficult acoustic he made a virtue by placing choruses in different parts of the building to highlight the ways the sound ricocheted off the high pale stone. It was also bound up with a tradition of sacred music distinct from the 19th-century classical canon, and, like the cathedral itself, somewhat newer: The early 20th-century French and Belgian organ composers Lewis has loved (he played Maurice Duruflé's Toccata himself), and the living composers he has worked with. One highlight was the world premiere of Dominick Argento's "The Choir Invisible"; the composer set a thoughtful and slightly convoluted text by George Eliot with gentle declamatory grace.
A third component, inevitably, was Bach, in several incarnations, including the familiar Sinfonia melody from Cantata No. 156 played respectably on cello by the head of the Washington Performing Arts Society, Neale Perl, in the unaccustomed role of performer.
A 25th anniversary is an active thing: still in progress, not truly venerable. Rather than the hush of ancient tradition, Sunday's concert exuded the ruddy good health of the comfortably middle-aged. The choruses entered to a plump, Wagner-influenced Richard Strauss processional from 1909, and exited, at the end of a long afternoon, to the raucous mewlings of a gaggle of bagpipers and the accompanying drummers from the St. Andrew's Society. After leading the crowd outdoors, the pipers stood in a semicircle in front of the cathedral and continued to play: the focus of a community, standing around them soaking up the music, and the sun.

May 14, 2010

Reilly and Friends Concert Weekend

Join us to mark - with music, of course - J. Reilly Lewis' 25th Anniversary Season as Music Director of the Cathedral Choral Society. Among the guests will be Neale Perl, President and CEO of WPAS, the St. Andrew's Society, the Order of St. John,The Washington Ballet, the Washington Symphonic Brass, guest conductors Norman Scribner and Robert Shafer, the Washington National Cathedral Choristers, and the St. Albans-National Cathedral Schools Chorale, capped with the world premiere of a work composed especially for the occasion by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento.

Tickets starting at $20 (Reserved Seating)


Champagne Reception
In honor of Maestro Lewis' 25th Anniversary Season, there will be a champagne reception immediately following the concert.  Tickets to the reception are $25 a person.

Free parking in the Cathedral underground garage courtesy of the Cathedral Choral Society

May 7, 2010

The Trio of Tributes

We’ve been in a celebratory mood lately, alive with excitement and preparation for events commemorating our esteemed music director’s 25th anniversary with the Cathedral Choral Society. J. Reilly Lewis has become a mainstay on the DC choral scene and provided invaluable artistic insight and leadership to all involved with this organization. 

Reilly began his career at age 8 as a member of the Junior Boy Choir at Washington National Cathedral. We can’t think if a more fitting place to celebrate his career and contributions than right here where it all began. Next weekend will mark what we like to call The Trio of Tributes. Our annual gala will kick off the celebration right here at Washington National Cathedral under a tent on the North Lawn. This is sure to be a tasty event, catered by Ridgewells of Bethesda! Our last subscription concert entitled Reilly and Friends is a celebration featuring many beloved choral works and exciting collaborations with many of Washington’s finest performing artists on Sunday, May 16th followed by a post-concert champagne reception under the tent. 

When a career spans over 25 years, friends are bound to be made. The Reilly and Friends program will feature works from friends Reilly has acquired over the years including Wayne Dirksen, Bob Shafer and Dominick Argento. Reilly was and continues to be inspired by these pillars of choral music: 

“Wayne Dirksen was my choirmaster, organ teacher, mentor, and then esteemed colleague. It was he who opened up for me the mysteries of music in this magnificent sacred space.” -J. Reilly Lewis on Wayne Dirksen 

“Shortly after I returned from New York City, I heard a performance on my car radio that was so engaging, so captivating, and so exquisite - That performance said it all. It inspired me to drive straight to the school to introduce myself to this remarkable young conductor. Thus began our lifelong friendship.” -J. Reilly Lewis on Bob Shafer 

“No words of mine can express the love and gratitude I feel for Dominick’s generosity of spirit in setting this incredibly moving text to music. One of the joys of being music director of this venerable organization has always been the opportunity to nurture the talents of others.” J. Reilly Lewis on Dominick Argento 

We hope you will join us next weekend in celebration of 25 years with Music Director, J. Reilly Lewis, and offer a toast to 25 more.